Sunday, February 24, 2008

A skate on the world's largest ice rink

Patterson creek

Sunday morning we gathered up some snacks and our skates and headed down to the Rideau Canal for some fresh winter air and exercise. Before leaving I was sure to check out the ice conditions to make sure we had a green flag. Ice was rated good to very good and better yet the sun was shining and the temperature was a perfect -10°C with the wind chill.

Fun times on the Rideau Canal

From Pretoria Bridge, we skated south as far as Dow's Lake and then back north again to Pretoria and beyond. It was still early enough that the crowds had not yet been released from Sunday church so we had no problem finding open ice which is not always the case during Winterlude.

Beaver Tail breakfast crowd

The Beaver Tail line-up at Fifth Ave was a mile long but that was no surprise seeing as I'm sure it's the only reason about 90% of the weekend skaters come down here. Here's a link to a Beaver Tail recipe in case you haven't found the time to sharpen your skates yet.

Skating the Rideau
Royal Oak Enjoying a skate break

At the end of our journey we opted for the Royal Oak pub over the Beaver Tails which we'd already enjoyed earlier this month. At the pub, we enjoyed the classic eggs, sausage, toast, and home fries breakfast. Always a hit on a Sunday morning.

Finally here's a map for those of you wanting to plan your skating route. Enjoy.

Rideau Canal skate map

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008

Ski to Healey Cabin

Healey Cabin

Gatineau Park: P16 to Healey Cabin (10 km)
P16 Pine Rd: N45 34.345 W75 53.134
Healey: N45 34.318 W75 56.019

Friday was another PD day for the kids and it was my turn to take the day off and entertain them. I decided on another x-c ski in Gatineau Park (surprised?). This time we left from P16 on Pine Rd and headed up up up to the newly renovated Healey Cabin near Herridge.

Leaving P16

The ski from P16 is a good 1.5 km climb but the good part is knowing that you'll get to ride this section for free on the ski down to the car.

Today's ski inspiration... or should I say m&m-spiration.

Healey Cabin Steep Hill sign leading down to P16

The next photo for those of you that want to read a little more on the history of the Healeys and their cabin.

Healy... Gatineau's newest ski chalet

Finally here is an old photo of the cabin before the restoration that I took back in 2005 when we were out here skiing and geocaching.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bruce Pit toboggan run

Bruce Pit toboggan hill

The tobogganing conditions were perfect yesterday so we decided to head out to Bruce Pit for some fun. Being so close to supper I was a little surprised to see so many people on the hill. But even more surprising was all the jumps and bumps. Luckily over the years I have developed a technique that seems to work quite well in saving my spine from collapsing and my tail bone from smashing. It's quite simple really, lean forward and roll with the wipe outs.

Taking flight on the GT

What I find most frightening is the parents. They load their children on toboggans and then while laughing maniacally shove them off the top of the hill and giggle as they watch them then bounce out of control from one bump to the next until they inevitably wipe out in a pile of arms and legs. Then they turn around and start chatting with the other parents while their child lies in the middle of the hill recovering like a human target for all the other parents to aim their children's sleds at. They should at least pay attention so that they can tally their points for each direct hit.

Tobogganing at Bruce Pit

Seriously, it is every man, woman, and child for themselves during this favourite Canadian winter pastime. I tobogganed down every time with the kids and wiped out on at least half of the rides due to catching too much air off one of these crazy jumps. I wouldn't doubt if it was these same parent's that came back late at night all liquored and camo'ed up to build these snow ramps and mogul luge runs. All so they can have another laugh the next day as they launch their wee loved ones over them.

Video clip of the kids and I tobogganing - complete with wipe out.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ski day to Western cabin


Gatineau Park: P7 to Western (19 km)
P7 Kingsmere: N45 29.416 W75 50.558
Western: N45 33.218 W75 58.387

I woke up Friday to another snowy morning. We had about 10-15 cm earlier in the week and another 5 cm last night. Other than the week long melt we had in January this winter has been all about the snow snow snow. Our snowbanks are now above my head but unlike most of my fellow Ottawans you won't hear this winter baby complaining.

By the time Mike rolled into the driveway the snow had stopped and a blue sky was peeking through. We were officially off for another great x-c ski in the GAT.

X-C ski day in the GAT

For this ski day Mike had planned for us to start at P7 and make our way to Champlain Lookout and then on to Western cabin for lunch. The sky was clear and windchill temperatures were hovering around -18°C.

grizzlyG takes a break

As we made our way up the trail we passed several orange markers recently planted for the weekend's ski race, the Keskinada now known as the Gatineau Loppet. Gatineau is the official location for the Canadian leg of the world loppet circuit. For those of you wondering (myself included), the Worldloppet Ski Federation is an international sports federation of cross-country skiing marathons. The aim of Worldloppet is to promote the sport of cross-country skiing through the various ski races around the world. All that to say we'd made a good choice not to wait until the weekend to ski as we likely would have found some of the trails blocked off to the public.

Huron Lookout

The ski past Huron and Champlain Lookout provided some great photo ops before continuing on to Western cabin for lunch. There are two ways to ski down to the cabin, the quick and hairy trail or the longer and better groomed trail. We chose the short and hairy. But thanks to last night's snowfall it proved to give us a fast but gentle roller coaster ride before dumping us off at the side of the main trail just above the cabin. Skiing down the last hill reminded me of Mike's hilarious wipe-out last winter as he skidded off the trail into the bush. Aw, good times.

grizz wipes out on the ride down to Western

This time I found myself skiing down the hill to find a gaggle of Gatineau students leaving the cabin. I nearly ran over a couple ski tips before coming to a stop in the middle of them. Turned out that they were too busy eating chocolate bars and throwing snowballs to take any notice.

Lunch consisted of the usual toasted turkey and cheese sandwich washed down with a can of Blue. Sweet. This time I remembered to bring cheese and crackers to munch on while my sandwich cooked to perfection on the woodstove.

Climbing or falling? Western hut this way

As per usual the ski back was mostly downhill allowing me to take a couple of action videos (see previous post). The last leg back to the parking lot has a couple of back to back steep hills marked with two "!" signs. It can get a little hairy but with a bit of fresh snow on the trail I thought I might try video taping the event. Worked out rather well other than the near colison with the wankers that decided to wax their skis at the 90 degree turn.

Ridge Road signs

The only question left at the end of this awesome GAT day was, where would our next ski take us?

Friday, February 15, 2008

GAT ski video

Ski down past Shilly Shally cabin

Ski down to P7 Kingsmere... with a near wipe out.

Alternate angle showing me coming down at the crowd huddled at the 90 degree turn.

Listen to the one girl say, "Look, he's taking pictures looks like he's got things under control." at which point I nearly lost it. DOH!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ski lessons with Summer and Winter Olympian Sue Holloway

Murphys Point ski day

Murphys Point Provincial Park: N44 46.912 W76 14.279 (Google map)
Murphys Point Ski Report

Sunday we decided to make a day trip to Murphys Point Provincial Park for some more cross country skiing and to catch some free lessons with Sue Holloway, a Canadian Olympic athlete (see note at the end of Friday's blog).

Murphys Point ski trail

We come camping here at least once a year in the summer so this was a great chance for us to experience the park in winter under a fresh fluffy blanket of snow. It was beautiful. And the weather cooperated too, with blue skies and temperatures hovering around -5°C.

Outhouses by the ski trail

We pulled into the parking lot around 11, just in time to squeeze in a couple of loops through the snow covered campground before heading over to the chalet for lunch. We timed our arrival at the park store/winter ski chalet just right too as they were setting up for hot chocolate and snacks. Yum. Turned out we were a little early for the afternoon's ski lessons but that just meant we had the heated cabin all to ourselves.

Stomachs full, it was time to head over to the designated area and score ourselves some free ski lessons. More importantly I was looking forward to meeting Sue after reading all about her success as an Olympic athlete (medals to prove it). Again we were a bit early so the kids killed some time building a snowman to welcome everyone.


Finally Sue arrived with an entourage of enthusiastic followers in tow. Introductions were made and then BLAMMO! Sue had everybody engaged in a variety of activities and soon both kids and parents were laughing and enjoying themselves. So much so that they likely didn't even realize that they were picking up some lifelong cross country ski tips. Well done Sue.

Sue Holloway
Ski soccer with Sue Holloway X-C ski lessons with Sue Holloway
X-C ski lessons with Sue Holloway

Making winter memories... Thank you Sue.
Group shot with Sue Holloway

Friday, February 08, 2008

Murphys Point x-c ski trip

Group winter camping

Murphys Point Provincial Park: N44 46.912 W76 14.279 (Google map)
Ontario Parks Ski Report

Today I decided to try some x-c ski trails in Ontario for a change and after a little research I headed out to Murphys Point Provincial Park (near Perth) where they have 20 km of groomed ski trails. After a nice snow fall the day before, and a fresh grooming, the trails where in great shape. And although the day was overcast the temperature was hovering around -3 and the occasional flurries made for near perfect ski conditions. Definitely no complaints.

Murphys Point ski trail map

I decided to start with the Round Lake loop (10 km) with a pit stop at the Lally Chalet for lunch. I was the second skier to do the loop since the grooming and managed to make it all the way around the lake to the chalet without seeing a single soul. I thoroughly enjoyed the solitude - a nice break from the Gatineau traffic.

Lally homestead
POV on the Murphy's Point ski trail Lally Chalet
Murphy's Point ski trail

Some wildlife had managed to gnaw their way through the wooden door to the room under the main floor of the Lally Chalet. Inside I found two porcupines and two raccoons. What I found mildly amusing was to see the porcupines each in their own corner while the coons where snuggled together for warmth. Obviously it makes perfect sense but does lend credence to the age old question, "How do porcupines have sex?". The answer of course is very, very carefully.

Lally Chalet porcupines
Lally Chalet coons

I finished the day off with a pint of Guinness at O'Reillys in Perth. A fine pub.

Sunday the Tay Valley Cross Country Ski Club are running free x-c ski lessons from 1-4pm and they are bringing in Sue Holloway as one of the instructors. For those of wondering who she is well she's none other than the first Canadian to compete in both the Summer and Winter Games in the same year. That's right, she competed in kayaking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. Then in the 1984 Summer Olympics in kayaking and brought home a bronze and silver medal. Cheers to Sue the Canadian Olympic Hall of Famer.

Monday, February 04, 2008

A visit from London

This weekend we had a visit from our UK friends, Glenn and Donna. They are experienced travelers and often have little or no plan before setting off around the world. Needless to say, this trip was no different as they zoomed into town on Saturday afternoon on a 3 day stop before continuing on to Toronto and then St. Lucia.

Sunday we headed down to the Rideau Canal to check out some of the Winterlude attractions. The ice was a little rough but we were determined to get in our annual skate on the world's largest outdoor rink. Yes, the sign now reads "largest" not longest after Winnipeg's little fiasco calling in The Guinness crew with their measuring tapes to steal our record. Anyhow, after our skate we felt that we well deserved one of Ottawa's famous Beaver Tails.

Beaver Tails
Skating on Dows Lake Glenn and Donna

Sunday night we went down to Patty's Pub to relive the our Carleton U days with some old friends. The Super Bowl was playing in the background and actually proved to be an awesome match-up for a change.

Monday we decided to celebrate Paula's birthday by driving up into Gatineau Park for a x-c ski. Donna is originally from New Zealand which sees little or no snow but through years of traveling she has managed to "master" the downhill scene and mentioned that she was now ready to try some cross country. So off we went to rent some skis, poles and boots at Trailhead for about $10 a set and then up to P10 in Gatineau Park. From there we skied up to Shilly Shally cabin for some left over pizza warmed up on the woodstove and a pint of Kilkenny.

Glenn and Donna at Shilly Shally

We had a great time and I think Donna may be ready for some of the more technical trails. Glenn on the other hand was well bad and managed to re-injure his shoulder and pull his groin during one of his many attempts at skate skiing. Too funny.

All in all we had a great time and can't wait for their next visit to Ottawa. Hopefully it's not another 5 years between... cheers guys.

Group shot